Be Well with Dr. Rob

Wellness at work

By: Dr. Rob Oldham
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The office is often a prime source of unhealthy habits: eight hours of sitting at a desk, hunched over and staring at the glow of a computer monitor.

A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of many serious health conditions, from heart disease to diabetes.

About 15 percent of Placer County residents report being sedentary.

There are, of course, some simple things you can do at work to increase your daily activity: take walking and stretch breaks, change positions throughout the day and drink plenty of water. But beyond that, we need to recognize that workplaces can play a big role in encouraging healthy habits both on and off the clock.

Here at Placer County, we’ve had an employee wellness program for three years. We offer a number of tools to help employees stay on track: a digital resource library for everything from stretching tips and healthy recipes to smoking cessation tools; discounted memberships at local gyms; regular challenges where employees can team up and compete for prizes by walking, running, planking and more; and Q& As with employees who’ve reached fitness goals.

If you don’t already have a wellness program at your work, consider bringing it up with management. These programs do not have to be one-size-fits-all; a quick survey can help you gauge what your employees have the most desire for and what’ll give you the most bang for your buck. Do most want to lose weight, gain strength or do they have other goals? Would employees be most likely to respond to incentives for hitting certain individual milestones or would they rather participate in group classes? What are their preferred methods of communication?

Once you have a clear idea of what the needs are and what your goals are, then it’s easier to create buy-in among your colleagues and leadership.

We have a committee of “wellness ambassadors,” more than two dozen people representing each and every department. Together, these ambassadors make sure that our wellness efforts are reflective of what people want and help encourage their coworkers’ participation in wellness activities.

“Our wellness ambassadors are enthusiastic, motivated and passionate. In just one year the wellness program has doubled employee participation by offering activities ranging from walking challenges to mindfulness campaigns. We are fortunate to have a team of wellness ambassadors that are eager to promote a healthy work/life balance,” said our wellness coordinator Penny Domschot.

An employee wellness program has so many benefits that extend far beyond personal health. Studies show that healthier employees are more productive, happier and less stressed. Plus, it’s a great way to build rapport among teams. At Placer, our public health staff gets really into our walking challenge each year, with costumes and special activities. It’s win-win for the employee and employer.

I hope that if your workplace has a wellness program, you consider getting involved — and if not, consider developing one!


Dr. Robert Oldham is Placer County’s public health officer. His phone number is 530- 889-7141.